Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has absolved the Federal Government of blame on the return of former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, who was discovered to have been reinstated into the Federal Civil Service after he had earlier fled the country in 2013 following corruption charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), claiming that Nigeria’s federal structure made it possible for a wanted person to hide and successfully evade arrest for some time.
His reappearance has been the subject of much controversy, as many have claimed it was not possible for him to return to the country without help from government officials.
The suspicions of inside help have grown stronger with revelations linking the Attorney General of the Federal and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, to his return and reinstatement.
But Osinbajo argued instead that the country’s system made it possible for wanted suspects to go undetected.
“If you look at our present federal structure, it is designed in such a way that you may be able to hide somewhere for a day or two before you are found. Otherwise, how do you explain a situation where a fugitive suddenly appears and finds his way back into the system? How did he get there?
“What Buhari did immediately he heard about the matter was to query how it happened and ordered his disengagement, which is the right thing to do. As for what will happen, we may have to wait and see”, Osinbajo said.
Osinbajo also spoke in defence of Maikanti Baru, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), regarding allegations that contracts awarded without the approval of the corporation’s board constituted a breach as put forward in the leaked memo by Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources.
Speaking on Friday at the ‘Greater Nigeria Pastors Conference’ organised by the coalition of Apostolic leaders, Osinbajo said that based on clarification by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), the consent of the NNPC board was not needed in the award of contracts, contrary to Kachikwu’s claims.
“Is it the board of the NNPC or the NNPC tenders board that approves contract? The answer given by the Bureau of Public Procurement is that it is the tenders board.
“There could be conflicts between ministries. The only reason it became an issue was that it came to the public. NNPC law says that the president approves the contract that exceeds a certain amount.
“In the previous law, it could be taken to the council of ministers. When it was amended, it is the president that approves and it may not come to the federal executive council.”
Confirming reports that he had asked Baru to meet Kachikwu instead when he approached him on matters related to the oil industry, he said, “When I was the acting president, I was not the minister of petroleum. I could ask Baru to report to the minister of state.
“In the oil and gas sectors, we have the NNPC as our national oil company. Kachikwu was both the minister of state and NNPC boss at a time.
“The GMD reports to the minister, who is the president. It is possible that the GMD reports to the president directly”.
The vice president also defended the Buhari administration against charges of bias and favouritism in appointments, claiming that appointments reflected federal character and were based on merit.
He also commended the efforts of Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the fight against corruption.
“Magu is a highly competent figure. His fight against corruption has been unprecedented. We must insist on merit, which many people don’t believe in. Merit must come before quota”, he said.
On allegations by some Christian leaders that the country was being islamised by the Buhari administration, Osinbajo said it was impossible for anyone to Islamise Nigeria.
He said, “Part of the problem is the failure of Christian leadership to take its rightful place. We focus our minds on something we call the Islamic agenda. We look for it everywhere as if we are looking for demons.
“But where is the Christian agenda. Are we not entitled to one? We are too divided as Christians to have an agenda. The key to the unity and progress of Nigeria is in the church.”
On the controversial Sukuk bond that further fuelled allegations of islamisation, the vice president said there were no plans to Islamise Nigeria through the Sukuk bond or the country’s membership of the Islamic Development Bank.
He said that apart from Nigeria, many nations of the world including the United States of America and the United Kingdom had also embraced the system as a result of its progressive nature.
“The Sukuk is an Islamic concept, which enables people to have access to credit. It is essentially like a bond. The US, UK, China, South Africa have all used the Sukuk. Once there is money in the market, let us not get sentimental. The most important thing is for us to use those monies well.
“Some people say there are some hidden things in this arrangement and that one day somebody is going to take us over. Where? How will that happen? These are straightforward financial systems used all over the world. I don’t think it presents any real problem. It is a very progressive financial system.
“Nigeria became a member of the Islamic Development Bank in 2005 and the first person to sit as director of the bank was Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The second person to sit as a director is the current Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, and both of them are Christians. So, when people talk about Islamic agenda, sometimes I am lost.
“The person who brought us into the bank is not a Fulani or Northerner, the person was a Christian, so why are we complaining? Nigeria is the fourth largest shareholder in the Islamic Bank. This wasn’t Buhari’s making. We must have facts before saying things. But above all, we must ask ourselves if being a member of the bank profits us or not.
“For me, I have no problem with this. We can use what we get there to develop our society. This is the most important for me”, he said.
While accusing the country’s elite of working against the progress of the country, the vice president called on citizens to support the current administration in its fight against corruption.
He said, “We must deal with corruption decisively. It is created by leadership elite that includes not just politicians but also religious leaders and people in the private sector. We must also deal with tribalism, religion and other parochial tendencies. It is difficult to find national leaders today. Many Nigerians speak from a tribal perspective.
“There is no nation on the face of the earth that would survive under the weight of corruption that our country had gone through. Nigeria’s elite, regardless of political, religious or ethnic differences, think alike. They are driven largely by the same motive.
“They are selfish, unprepared to make the sacrifices either in service or self-restraint that leaders of successive societies make. High-level corruption knows no religion, ethnicity or other considerations.
“Corrupt elements in our society are united; they fight for each other and are prepared to go down together. They are actually one tribe, indivisible despite their diversity.
“We have to address the issue of corruption pointedly. The system is corrupt. Corruption is generally the rule in our society. This is a time to build. We can become Africa’s most productive nation in the very near future”.
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